Garden Tour features 15 places of splendor
The annual Nome Garden Tour, organized by Cheryl Thompson and Angela Hansen, took place on Saturday, August 27. The tour started in front of Old St. Joe’s Hall at Anvil City Square at 1p.m. and ended around 6 p.m. with a potluck meal and backyard cookout, this time held at the Hansen’s garden in Icy View.
A couple dozen people gathered for the tour, riding either in the bus for a $10 fee, $20 per family, or following along in personal vehicles behind the tour bus. The group was a mix of ages from a newborn baby to local elders, all excited to meet local gardeners, see colorful blooms and learn about successful crops in fifteen gardens of green-thumbed Nomeites.
The first stop was the Nome Public Garden, cared for by George Bard. Bard explained to the group about his successful outdoor crops of lettuce, chard, red beets and kale. He reminded the group to be cautious with brassicas species, or plants of the mustard family like kale and cabbages, as growing these varieties over and over again in the same soil can produce a soil born fungus. For this reason, he only has kale in the mix this year. Bard also mentioned a few setbacks this year, like acts of vandalism and rodent activity that hindered crop production. Although Bard tends the public garden, others in the group were encouraged to volunteer their time, pick some greens, or claim a space in the lot for their own growing activities.
After a quick coffee stop at Bering Tea Co., the tour continued on to what used to be a vacant lot, but is now a green house and flower garden tended by Janet and Charlie Brower, with the help of the local Boys & Girls Club. The space originally belonged to the “Little Sisters of Jesus” , and was later converted into a garden space with the help of stimulus funds from Arctic Access.
Janet Brower expressed her joy in working with the children of the Boys & Girls Club, who planted seeds in April and still help out with watering duties.
Heading towards the waterfront, the garden tour stopped by Chuck and Peggy Fagerstrom’s place, admiring the tall patch of poplar trees, which many locals call “cottonwoods.” Cheryl Thompson pointed out the delphinium flowers and globeflowers, or trollius, which have proven to be successful in Nome.
The next stop on the garden tour was Abby and Dan Bachelder’s home, with bustling chickens and barefoot children. Abby Bachelder showed her wide variety of enormous cabbage plants, which she offered to anyone who wanted to make kimchi. She explained that her garden success was not from covering and protecting her plants, but from soil quality. This year, she put fish in the soil, and everything did great.
Next, the tour passed by Mark and Leslie Smith’s house to see their poppy covered yard. The colorful, long-stemmed flowers re-seed themselves every year and tend to like the gravely soil of Nome. Also, transplanted wild irises from the tundra were doing well in their yard. Cheryl Thompson pointed out the sporadic tufts of foxtail grass, which can be seen all over town. Although pretty in the summer, she warned that the scratchy tops spread quickly and can cause abscesses in dogs’ mouths.
After a quick look at Mayor Richard Beneville’s house and his colorful display of potted plants, the tour left town and drove up the Teller Highway towards Dredge No. 7 Inn Depot and Kim Knudsen’s place. Knudsen let the group explore her landscaped yard and greenhouse, where a small crop of corn is growing. Then the group toured the breezeway of Dredge No. 7 Inn that connects the various bed and breakfast rooms. Judy Martinson has designed a welcoming walkway for guests with colorful blooms throughout, some of which are cared for by Kim Knudsen.
The following stop was Nome-Beltz High School’s student greenhouses. Cheryl Thompson teaches a college gardening class there; the greenhouses are a collaboration of NWC and the high school. The students research varieties of tomatoes and other vegetables that do best in the arctic climate. Thompson pointed out a new variety of “polbig” tomatoes that have been successful, as well as purple basil that makes incredible salad vinegar. Thompson has a select amount of bagged soil available for purchase at the high school, the “Fishy Pete” and “Alaskan Earth” varieties. Interested parties can contact her for more information.
Heading up Dexter Bypass, the tour stopped at Chip and Lisa Leeper’s place to admire the greenhouse and berry patches. Lisa Leeper arrived to explain her gardening success this year, which she called “the year of the cucumber.” Leeper recommended columbine and “Livingstone” daisies for outside blooms as well as green beans for an easy crop. The group admired her soon-to-be chicken coop, which she said was made from recycled materials. As with many things in Nome, pretty much everything’s junk turned into something, said Leeper.
The tour turned back south and headed to Icy View, where guests visited Roxanne Thurman’s carefully planned garden, Carlee Hobbs’ greenhouse and lawn, Larry and Esther Pederson’s solarium, Angie Gorn’s tree-lined backyard and ended at Angela Hansen’s “secret garden” backyard.
Thurman’s heirloom lettuce plants stood up like store-quality bunches in her raised planters. Hobbs’ lawn was an impressive green after only one growing season. Along the way between gardens, one tour member reminded everyone to not “compare and despair, but admire and be inspired.”
After a long afternoon of admiration and awe, the tour members were ready for rest and food. Angela Hansen invited everyone for a backyard cookout and potluck dinner in her labyrinth of a backyard. Guests mingled between the carefully plotted garden paths and peered between willows at the colorful flowers and impressive landscaping.
“The whole reason for starting this garden tour was to inspire people,” said Cheryl Thompson of the event.
At the close of the tour, one could only see joyful, inspired people just waiting to get their hands into their own planters at home.